General Faculty Meeting

12/15/2004

 

Attendees: Sharon Anderson-Gold, Henry Scarton, Heinrich Medicus, Michael Podowski, Ginny Gregg, Bud Peterson, G. Korniss, Jeff Durgee, Peter Persans, Bram van Heuveln, George Nagy, Chjan Lim, Deborah Kaminski, Joel Plawsky, Achille Messac, Rena Bizios, Bob Block, William N. Gill, Linda McGown, Henrik Hagerup, H. Huang, Ash Kapila, Susan Sharfstein, Mike Fortun, Ron Gutmann, Alan A. Desrochers, John Wen, J. Keith Nelson, Martin Glicksman, Sandy Sternstein, Afina Lupulescu, Christoph Steinbruchel, Mark Rea, Mika Hanna, Robert Messler, Roger Wright, Mark Wentland, Ken Connor, Morris A. Washington, Patricia Search, Christian Wetzel, Don Steiner, Lester Gerhardt, Joe Ecker, George Handelman, Nicholas Clesceri, Paul Schoch, J. Warden, Gary Saulnier, John Brunski, Bill Siegmann, Don Schwendeman, mark Holmes, Ed Rogers, Cheng Hsu, Charles Malmborg, Randolph Franklin, Bill St. John, Jim Murtagh, Stephen Derby, John Mitchell, Tom Willemain, Wilfredo Colon, Ishwara Bhat, Shekhar Garde, Sanat Kumar, Georges Belfort, Michael Jensen

 

The purpose of this Special General Faculty meeting was to disseminate the initial results of the satisfaction survey.Since it is a meeting of the faculty, general business can be conducted.

 

Agenda
Purpose of Survey - Bruce Nauman

Direct Quotes to Bruce Nauman

Survey Results

Comments
Q&A

Purpose of Survey Ė Bruce Nauman

President Bruce Nauman opened the meeting with the following story: In the 1950s former United States President and current Columbia University President Dwight Eisenhower attended his first faculty meeting.At the meeting he attended, he said he was happy to meet the employees of the University.A senior faculty member told him ďMr. President, the faculty ARE Columbia UniversityPresident Nauman continued by saying that governance has to include faculty, staff, students and the community.According to the survey results, the faculty wish to be included in governance to a far greater extent than they currently are.

 

Direct Quotes to Bruce Nauman

There were 188 total respondents to the survey.There were many people who responded anonymously despite the protection provided by the double envelope technique.Thirty three of the 188 responses were sent via email.

 

The following comments were made via email to Bruce:

ďI like the idea of voting on this matter.Yet, double envelope one way or the other, still there is a name. And being fully paranoid, this is not anonymous to my standards. So I cannot vote. Or you will receive mine without the outer envelope, just like the ones you referred to in your recent e-mail.ĒBruce responded that since this survey is meant to be done annually, next year an outside firm will be contacted to conduct the survey.

 

ďIt was reported that relatively few faculty know who Francine is, and, upon looking her name up, have found that she is listed as Administrative Coordinator in the Provost's office.  Several suggestions were made for survey return modes that do not involve listing one's name.ĒAlthough Francine does work for the Provost office, this is a matter of professionalism.Future surveys will include modes done outside of the Institute.

 

ďMy satisfaction level is so low it'll fall off your survey's scale. Iím better off spending the time it would take to fill out the survey looking for another job, which is what I'm doing.Ē

 

Survey Results

There were five choices of response from very favorable to very unfavorable.A number grade was assigned from 1-4.Very satisfied was 4, Somewhat Satisfied was 3, Neutral is 2, Somewhat Unsatisfied is 1 and very unsatisfied is 0.The results were read.See attached.Schools Deans were lumped together.At some point, they will be separated by school.

 

The final slide showed how various departments rate the President.ďChosenĒ means those departments chosen to move into the Biotech Center.Of the three chosen departments, one was positive, one rather ambivalent and the other rated the President quite negatively.

 

Comments

The comments were extremely valuable and very detailed.After some debate the FSEC decided to share the comments with the Board of Trustees, the President, the Provost and the Dean of the Graduate School.At the moment, the comments are not being distributed in general.

 

Q & A

Question from the floor:[1] Among the 188 voters, does that include the anonymous votes?

Bruce Nauman: There were 22 anonymous votes.The statistics are for 166: 188-22.

 

Question from the floor:Can you give us any general trends or comments that repeated themselves?

Bruce: The comments were not good.The results were bad, but the comments read worse.Those who were motivated to submit comments were motivated to submit quite negative comments.Words like fear and mistrust came up frequently.

 

Question from the floor: How does the Senate propose to move forward to improve the situation?Letís assume the results accurately reflect the feeling of the people.What is important is to take some action and put some processes in place to improve in the areas of particular concern.How is the Senate going to move forward?

Bruce:That is what this meeting is for.The whole faculty can be involved since itís a general faculty meeting.It is open for discussion.

 

Comment from the floor: I assume the FSEC meets periodically with the President and the Provost.

Bruce: We have a meeting with the Chairman of the Board tomorrow and the results will be presented.The results were already transmitted to the President, Provost and Dean of the Graduate school.They also will get all the comments.

 

Question from the floor: Some time ago, there was a policy that in order for anything to be given to the Board of Trustees, it had to be approved by the President first.Did you get her approval to send it to the Board?

Bruce: no

 

Question from the floor: If you removed the vote from the biology department, what would the results look like?

Bruce: The departmental votes have not been separated.Regardless, the results are definitive that the faculty at this Institute are substantially dissatisfied with the management of the Institute.

 

Question from the floor: Do you feel the need to display the names of other departments that weighted heavily against it?

Bruce: As you may know, there was a Constitutional Amendment put forth last year.Of those who voted, 84% were in favor of having the survey on an annual basis.The Board of Trustees rejected the amendment, but Sam Heffner said the faculty can have such a survey.Part of the conversation with Sam Heffner was that he did not think that many of the faculty would be dissatisfied.He thought since the President had so much turnover in new faculty and was doing so many good things, the survey would show a great deal of support for President Jackson.The departments that seem to have benefited the most are those that were discussed earlier.

 

Question from the floor:Why doesnít the presentation list every department?

Bruce:We were pressed to make these results available at this time.There will be more results at the 1/26/2005 Faculty Senate meeting.I see no reason not to disclose the results by department or by school.Individual faculty members will not be disclosed.

 

Comment from the floor:I see a reason not to disclose results by department and school.The numbers may be so small within any particular department that individually they may not be meaningful.

Bruce:True, we will have time to discuss that now for the 1/26 meeting.

 

Question from the floor:Without knowing what the comments are, how are we to put our finger on the source of some of the dissatisfaction?

Bruce:The FSEC had a long debate on whether or not to disclose the comments. I was persuaded not to disclose them.

 

Question from the floor: Why did you ask for them if youíre not going to disclose them?

Bruce:Thatís a wonderful question- to vent.They are being disclosed to those who they apply to as well as to their supervisor.My original inclination was to disclose them.But I can understand that it really isnít beneficial to disclose what people said specifically when they arenít the individual or the supervisor of that individual.

 

Question from the floor: Is there any way of knowing whether those people who actually voted are those that are unsatisfied?I know of some satisfied people who did not care to vote or they were neutral.The other thing is that it could be viewed also that those in the biology department who are supposedly benefiting, as compared to those who are not getting much are whiners.Can it be viewed that way or are there specific proposals?

Bruce: If the comments are distributed, I think youíll find that those are not the kinds of reasons you would expect.

 

Question from the floor:Why is the biology department happy?

Bruce:Ask biology.They have had a huge influx of faculty.Itís practically a remade department.

 

Question from the floor:Based on the first envelope, do you have any idea who responded among the so-called old faculty and new faculty?

Bruce:†† The tenured faculty was around 50% and untenured faculty response around 20%.I donít think it is all apathy either.

 

Question from the floor:To make a change, sometimes one is in an unpopular position.I would not consider this survey to be particularly damning. If you are going to make a transformation to the Institute, youíll make waves.More to the point, there doesnít seem to be any presentation other than a vote and cause and effect.Are there common threads that indicate something needs to be fixed?

Bruce:Yes.The comments are quite revealing.A common thread is management much more than direction.We saw the Rensselaer plan with a 2.0, but the path toward the Plan seems to more difficult.

 

Question from the floor:Do you mean people are being mistreated or fiduciary responsibilities are not being met?

Bruce: The comments will reveal that to the academic chain of command.

 

Question from the floor: Is that what this institution isÖ a chain of command?

Bruce: Yes. Read the comments.Lack of collegiality was used many times.

 

Question from the floor: The evaluation of the Dean of the Graduate School was very low. We know there have been issues on the graduate program.Can you comment that a significant factor to the low rating is due to the grad policy?

Bruce: Yes, the comments make it very clear that it is perceived that he implemented a terrible plan enthusiastically. If the implementation had been more reluctant, he would have gotten higher ratings.

 

Question from the floor: How do we make things better?We are in a catch 22.You canít give us the details, but you said the purpose of the meeting was to make suggestions.How can we react to that offer without knowing more of the details?Does that mean weíll rely on the Faculty Senate to absorb this and then come out with a series of recommendations to improve the situation?

Bruce: We might have some more issues from the floor.

 

J. Keith Nelson:Let me say to start that Iíve worked at the Institution for 20 years and I love it but I have been concerned like many of you about the way things are going.Iíd like to look at the results of the survey in a positive way.Iíd like to make a proposal that Iíll share with you.The Proposal is to hold a plebiscite on a number of key issues.There were 5 issues and they are down to 3.The purpose is to try to understand the unrest that is displayed in the survey results that were just heard.The purpose is to not only understand but to put some pressure on the administration to turn things right.I am an Englishman and I donít mind criticism of my English.The suggestion is that we take it a step further to try to determine the nature of the unrest and to hopefully and positively give to the administration some guidance.

 

Bruce:As to the question about what we can do about it and what the comments showed, this list addresses many of the comments.There is a general consensus that there is too little faculty input across the board, but these are specific things.

 

This is a proposal by an individual faculty member. He knew the overall outcome would be negative and he wanted to make a contribution.

 

The motion was made to consider the proposal and seconded.

 

Comment from the floor: I think this is a good summary of dissatisfaction, but if we were to send this to the President, it doesnít say anything about her successes and I think it would be an unbalanced way to present this since she has had many successes.This just seems very one-sided and is not the right thing to do.

Bruce:I thought this was a proposal to have a plebiscite.

 

Comment from the floor:These are issues that one individual has identified, but perhaps other faculty may identify other issues to raise that should be added to the list.

Bruce: These are specific grievances.

 

Question from the floor:Will the Faculty Senate have access to the comments?

Bruce:The FSEC decided that it would not be good to share them at this time.

 

Peter: I propose that this plebiscite be developed by people who have full knowledge of the comments of the survey and that the plebiscite comes from the FSEC.

 

Vice President of the Faculty Senate Achille Messac:I second your thoughts.This is new to everyone here but you and Bruce.I feel uncomfortable making substantial policy on the fly like this.Indeed we need to identify where we go from here.We established some facts, now itís time to determine where we go from here and the process.Everyone can help determine the process here.We need to move forward but I donít know if it will be wise to identify three issues.I have seen the comments briefly, but I could not say what to add.I would be concerned about moving so quickly.In terms of the FSEC determining not to give comments right away, the rationale was that we all get evaluated by our students and we are used to getting the hard comments, also.So what do we do with it?Everyone at our level and above gets it but we donít quickly throw it out to the world.That was the rationale.Not everyone agreed with it.

 

Comment from the floor:I think that the specific points could probably be extended into quite a list if you talked to older or younger faculty but I donít think it addresses the issues coming from the survey which seemed to have raised more general issues perhaps the most central being the communication issues.So I donít know if it really is productive to address specifics like this which were not addressed in the survey, comments aside.We do not have specific mention of particular policies in the survey but there was a general sense of comments in communication which I donít understand how that translates to mismanagement.I think addressing that would be the more effective way.

Bruce:The communication comments dealt not with the lack of speed but a lack of meaningful impact resulting from a lack of communication.Not that they didnít listen but they didnít modify their behavior based on listening.That is what those communications comments were.I donít think any of the comments were so bad that they shouldnít be viewed.But that was a difference in opinion.

 

Comment from the floor: I would like to say that I think it is premature to vote on a list of things that have been identified as a problem because when I read this list I was surprised that these would be the ďmost importantĒ things to fix.If we accept this list then it is almost as if this list is fixed then all is perfect, which I doubt.I think it is now the Faculty Senateís job, on the basis of their expert knowledge.Then the Faculty Senate can say at another faculty meting what they feel are the priorities and suggestions for the administration to fix.Perhaps also include items of improvement.

 

Comment from the floor: These are certain results of a process. Just addressing these three issues doesnít get to the root cause of the problem and does not address the more significant aspect of the decision-making process.

Bruce:You mean these arenít strong enough?

 

Comment from the floor:These are results of the process.The issue is how we got to these: the process, the management style.

 

Comment from the floor: I think you answered this at the beginning when President Eisenhower referred to the faculty as employees.We all feel that Shirley feels that way about us.The real solution is that the men and women ARE RPI and WE should run this place.WE should determine the curriculum, WE should determine the policies and WE should not be told from the top down that employee #660019, this is what youíre going to do.All it has achieved so far is that people are refusing to do things.No one has bought in.The evaluation of the Rensselaer Plan shows that people have not bought in to the Plan.It all comes back to the opening statement of President Eisenhower.

Bruce:If you read all the comments, those were the comments described in various ways.Now, Keithís thought was to hit a few specific items.I donít understand how a general problem can be addressed without some tangible improvement of items. How do we say, ďHey, donít treat us as employeesĒ.Whatís the proof in that?These three tangibles are something that maybe could happen.

 

Question from the floor:If the administration dealt with these three items and resolved them to the satisfaction of the majority of the people who expressed concern, what are we going to do, give them another list of the next three?

Bruce:I think a lesson would have been learned.

 

Question from the floor: Would the maker of the motion accept a revision of the motion to remand the original proposal to the Faculty Senate for further consideration? Keith Nelson agreed to the revision and it was seconded.

 

All in favor of remanding it to the Faculty Senate- all in favor: 43, opposed: 6, 1 abstention

 

A motion was made to make the comments available to the faculty.It was seconded.

 

Comment from the floor: There is a meeting with the Board of Trustees and a meeting with the President coming up.I would like to see what happens before we take a next step.

 

Secretary of the Faculty Rena Bizios:A word of caution. This is a very serious issue.If this info becomes available, those who voted have a right to see the comments. You saw the summary.If this is leaked and you see it tomorrow in the paper, weíll have a problem of credibility which will be difficult to replace by building bridges of communication. We need a solution to that before I vote for that at this particular time.

Question from the floor:You think itís a bad idea to release them now?

Rena:Yes.

 

Comment from the floor: I certainly understand the sense of everyone wanting access to the information; I think itís unwise to act that quickly.Many people made them without any sense that they would immediately be made public.

 

Recording Secretary Joel Plawski:The Faculty Senate thought this survey would be an annual event.It may be more important to see how the comments change from year to year, not necessarily to just read comments from any one year.

 

Comment from the floor:We have the comments. The point is whether they should be released right now.

 

Bruce:There is no comment that would reveal who the writer is.

 

Comment from the floor:When the survey was filled out, there was no commentary on the use of the comments. I would feel different if the statement had been made that the comments may be disseminated.I made candid comments for the FSEC.That should be taken into consideration.

 

Vice President of the Faculty Senate Achille Messac:I agree. The ultimate objective is to see where we are and where do we go from here.Next year, Iíll have Bruceís job so it may be more critical to fix those things.I propose that we not vote in favor of it

 

Comment from the floor:I think it would be a mistake.I am reluctant to accept these as representative.Statistically, regardless of turnout, that is not representative of how the other 50% feel.As much as it might be a move in the right direction, I still donít think this is representative of 100% of the faculty.

 

Comment from the floor: Almost everyone is here because they care about Rensselaer.I think everyone is mature enough to not leak it to the press.

 

All in favor of disseminating the comments to the faculty: In favor: 3, opposed: a lot

 

Comment from the floor:I have great respect for Keith and those on the FSEC, as previously serving as Vice President and President it disturbs me that information was leaked to him.

J. Keith Nelson:The only thing I was told was that it was an overwhelming result.

 

That was not a FSEC decision- it was made by Bruce.

 

Comment from the floor:Iíve been retired for 14 years.Iíve been in the university atmosphere since I was 16, in talking with friends and relatives there has been a change in all university life.People walk around campus and no longer smile. I think this is part of the atmosphere that is going on.It is somewhat universal, not just at RPI.Iíve seen a lot of Presidents come and go.When they come from outside, they do not know what people like.Mr. Pipes took two weeks to get into trouble; Dr. Jackson took 6 weeks to get into trouble before she knew about the University.Sit down with people and find out what it is really like before you put your foot into it.



[1] Due to the large number of attendees, it was not possible to identify all individuals with questions and comments from the floor.As a result, only those speaking from the podium and members of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee are identified.